Cosmic Sound Journeys

Magical voyages in sound for children of all ages from 5 to 75

[ Cosmic Sound Journey instruments all set up ready to tell a story - just add children :-) ]These sessions are designed to introduce some of my more remarkable and curious musical instruments that can involve everyone regardless of skill or musical training, with a tactile approach to sound and music-making. They work best in disciplined environments such as schools, primarily for children aged 7-10 (probably not teenagers), but can also be adapted for Year 1 and 2 pupils and even open-minded adults.

Ingredients

[ Malcolm dressed as wizard sounding the gong heralding the start of the Cosmic Sound Journey ][ Singing bowls and gongs and beaters and wands ][ Cosmic Sound Journey instruments set up on a table ][ Cosmic sound journey instruments all set up - just add children :-) ][ Frogs and owls closeup ]

Procedure

We begin our journey on a Magic Carpet, lying or sitting down with eyes closed listening to the celestial sounds of Tibetan singing bowls from ancient monasteries high in the mountains of the Himalayas. This encourages deep listening and relaxation into the music. Then we learn a simple sacred chant to sing while each child plays a singing bowl, gong or finger cymbal. Next we witness the incredible fountain bowl and panic bowls.

A flock of whirlytubes then launches us into the air with a vivid and unforgettable aural spectacle, metamorphosing into the low moans and drones of bullroarers and buzzing bow. Rainsticks herald the approach of a distant thunderstorm which moves closer with thunder drums and gongs adding to the exhilarating atmosphere. Eventually the storm subsides and dissolves into rushing sounds of the ocean drum depicting the ebb and flow of the waves breaking on a pebble beach. We soon head inland again with bird calls, frog chorus and other curious percussion sounds beckoning us into a swamp and thence the jungle. Herds of wild horses, goats and other animals run past with a cacophony of cowbells. After the animal procession, we hear much subtler sounds as the faeries make an appearance and lead the children in a fairy dance to explore their magical kingdom.

Our journey continues sitting back on the Magic Carpet, and we travel off into the heavens to meet an angelic choir, who take us into space to play cosmic harmonies on singing bowls and chimes, directed by the facilitator. This can take us on a journey to visit the planets of our solar system and beyond, and can tie in with children's learning about space topics. Meetings with strange alien lifeforms sometimes occur...

We end with a superfast return voyage through space back to our home planet, where we gently float back to Earth. Happy to be back, we greet Mother Earth with a stomping dance to ground ourselves. Then gradually the mighty Gathering Drum pounds a powerful heartbeat pulse to welcome us to an undiscovered tribal village deep in the forest, accompanied by a Native American Indian song.

Composition

If we're working with only two or three classes in a whole day, there is time for each class to have a morning session and then a second session after lunch, where we encourage the children to choose their favourite instrument and together compose a group composition where anything can happen. They decide on a story to tell, as if playing the soundtrack to an imaginary film; perhaps some children will even be actors in this scene of music theatre. Mime, dance and costume can be incorporated. Perhaps the children might prepare their story/materials in advance.

The session can be recorded and/or filmed (parental permission is required) for future use and enjoyment.

Requirements

The room must be free from interruptions (i.e., no people walking through or loud noise of kitchen staff, etc.) during the sessions, and ideally spacious enough to spread everything out and sit/lie down on the Magic Carpet. Here you see pictured a smaller-scale day of sessions set up in an emptied classroom, with less space but no disruptions.

Setup time is 90 minutes. Bringing such a vast array of amazing instruments takes time loading and unloading at each end. This has to be reflected in the cost. So it's best to make the most of it and run a series of sessions throughout the day for different classes.

Class sizes are dependent on age and behaviour, best limited to twenty. The children must be supervised at all times by at least two teachers or helpers actively participating and controlling discipline, plus classroom assistants for those children with individual needs.

[ Tingshaw finger cymbals sounding over a sacred bowl ]Some of these rare and sacred instruments are very delicate and the children must be taught to handle everything with gentle care. (We reserve the right to restrict the use of fragile instruments for some ages.)

Learning to focus on listening is a vital skill, not just for playing music, and gives children the chance for some screen-free time to really relax. There will, however, be ample opportunity for creative expression, albeit channelled through non-verbal ways. Many less confident children will discover new abilities and talents deep within themselves. And it need not all be quiet, serious and reflective; the whirlytubes and storm sections are very intense, the animal noises produce involuntary joy, and the immense Gathering Drum and mystical bowls evoke deep awe. Even adults are entranced by these remarkable sounds; children are equally captivated, and such a wealth of experience will stay with them for years to come.

Cost (includes two facilitators)

These costs may be eligible for discounts. The full-day cost works out much better value than a half-day due to the long setup time. This includes me coming with my co-facilitator Chrissie for even more dynamic sessions. We can also do it as one part of a whole day Carousel of different activities comprising up to 5 sessions.

[ Bowl spiral in the Bowl Garden |Children counting a neverending line of bowls |Bowl star in the Bowl Garden ]